Three students from Brewer High School and one from John Bapst Memorial High School won the top prizes in this year’s Law Day Essay and Art Contests sponsored each year by the Penobscot County Bar Association.
Destiny Grover of Brewer won first place in the essay contest and Tong Wu of Bangor won first place in the art contest. Both are juniors. Wu attends John Bapst.
Juliet Stoneton of Orrington and Jenna McGrath of Brewer, both seniors, won second place for essay and art, respectively.
This year, the winners were announced by Andrew Mead, acting chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, by video rather than in person at the Penobscot Judicial Center as is the tradition.
This year’s theme was “Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy: The 19th Amendment at 100,” reflecting on the anniversary of the amendment that ensured women the right to vote. The theme is chosen each year by the American Bar Association.
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All four students emphasized that women obtaining the right to vote was the beginning of what continues to be a fight for gender equality in the United States.
Grover wrote that: “For centuries, women have been crippled under the oppression and inequality that plagues our society.” She also said that before the suffrage movement, women were seen as weak, fragile, overly emotional and unable to do the same work that a man could do.
“The women’s suffrage movement, though, challenged those stereotypes in order to make it known that women are deserving of the same rights as any other person,” Grover wrote. “The strength of the women in the suffrage movement is memorable in the sense that not only was gender injustice quarreled [about] so publicly for the first time, but the suffragettes never abandoned their efforts, changing the world for every woman.”
Stoneton wrote in her essay that she was inspired by the suffrage movement in light of what her grandmother told her about the obstacles women wanting a career and family faced in the last century.
“I have had conversations with my grandmother, in which she said women were not allowed to play sports, when she went to school,” she wrote. “I learned that it was seen as wrong for a female teacher to work while she’s pregnant, that women would lose their jobs if they started a family because being a mother was seen as a full-time job. The women’s suffrage movement was a turning point in our society when women’s voices began to be heard.”
Wu created a timeline for the artwork that begins in 1920 and ends in 2020.
It shows the progress women have made over the last 100 years in going from working as housewives and maids to being employed in medical and research fields. McGrath’s artwork included a rainbow flag, a reference to same-sex marriage and access to birth control.
The local bar association has offered the scholarship since 1997 in connection with Law Day, which has been celebrated on May 1 since 1958. The day was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a “day of national dedication to the principle of government under law.” During the height of the Cold War, Law Day was counterpoised against May Day as feted in the Soviet Union, according to the American Bar Association, which chooses the theme of the contest.
Entries this year were down considerably from five years ago when 40 students sought scholarships. This year, just 13 students entered even though information about the contest was distributed in December, before school shut down because of the coronavirus epidemic, according to contest coordinator Tracy Collins.
First place winners received $500 as a scholarship and second place winners were given $250.